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A while ago, at the public library, I was sitting behind the desk when a middle-aged gentleman came in, looked at me, and said “Are you Andria?” I should have immediately been on my guard because the last time a middle-aged man approached me in this way while I was working at a place full of books was at Barnes & Noble.

I was sitting on my break reading a book when Friend from Cowboy/Ski-Pole country (before she moved there) came up and said, “I have a simply stupid question that I think you might know the answer to. What does R.S.V.P. stand for?”

“Repondre sil vous plait.”

She handed me a scrap of paper, “write it down.”

I went back to my book until I heard an unfamiliar male voice calling out, “Andria?”

“Yes?”

A stranger sat down in front of me, holding the piece of paper I’d written on and said “What does repondre mean?”

“Respond”

“and Sil?”

“Sil vous plait means please, it’s one word.”

He looked very skeptical.

“We have French dictionaries right over there,” I indicated, “you can look it up, if you don’t believe me.”

Of course he had no interest in doing that, so he thanked me and left.

The gentleman who approached me at the library sat down and explained why he was seeking me out, thankfully it had nothing to do with French.

“My daughter attends a Waldorf school in the area and is entering 8th grade. All 8th graders have a year-long project of their choosing, and she would like to write a novel. I was thinking that you might help her do this while you’re working at the library.”

At this point I had never heard of Waldorf Schools, but I looked it up, and it’s kind of like Montessori, only called Waldorf. Either way, it’s a school full of kids who ACHIEVE, and apparently write novels (with a little help from me). My Jewish Friend likes to tell stories about the Waldorf kid she dated years ago who played a dozen instruments, spoke many languages, and drank his own urine to keep from getting sick.

“I’m really not sure that that’s something I can do on library time,” I told him, “I mean, I’m meant to be working while I’m at work, not tutoring.”

“Well, it does seem like helping her is in keeping with the mission of a children’s librarian, doesn’t it?”

It seems like it’s in keeping with the mission of a tutor, I thought. “How long does she think the novel will be?”

“Probably about 130 pages.”

“That’s the same length as my master’s thesis.” I told him.

He just shrugged, “Kids have done this before; are you unfamiliar with Waldorf education?”

I was reminded at this point in the conversation, of the MFA program and the pressure to produce and the fact that while my colleagues spent summers writing novels, and full-length screenplays, I… didn’t. I was more interested in the drinking aspect of this writing life, so I re-worked the same drafts from undergrad over and over again, and wrote very little new material for the first year and a half. Now I was staring down the father of an overachieving kid who planned to produce in one summer, what it took me 4 years to accomplish.

I contented myself with the knowledge that while this girl may write 130 pages, it is unlikely that they will be very good. Also, as smart as she may be, she probably has no idea what she’s getting into.

Turns out that private tutoring while on the city’s dime, is expressly forbidden (shocking). I told the Waldorf dad this when he brought in his daughter to meet me. I waited, hopefully, for him to just acknowledge that he should hire me as a private tutor for an exhorbitant amount of money– but he just said, “Really? That really surprises me. Do you have some books here that will teach her how to write a novel?”

I directed them to the proper section and wished them luck, which is much more in keeping with the mission of a children’s librarian.

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Almost two years ago, on the 4th of July, I went to a demolition derby, in Hatton, ND with D.C. Insider Friend before he was D.C. Insider Friend when he was just wannabe D.C. Insider. It was the first demolition derby I had actually seen, but I’d heard many before since for a while my family lived near the fairgrounds. Because it was a demolition derby, we bought Bud (there’s still some dispute as to whether it was Budweiser or Bud Light), and Jim Beam, and listened to the cars crumple in front of us, got hit by flying balls of dirt, and had a seriously kick-ass time.

Eventually, though, we ran out of alcohol. D.C. Insider said, “I have to go to the bathroom; those people in front of us are drinking, your job is to make friends with them and get them to share.”

This was no problem. While the male half of the couple was a bit aloof, the girl just wouldn’t shut up and was more than happy to share her rum and cherry coke with us. We chatted for quite a while until finally the aloof guy muttered something about “city folk”and gave us a look like we should “get off his land”– we excused ourselves.

Hatton, ND may be a city of 707, but it’s not like Fargo is a teeming metropolis. Also, D.C. Insider and myself had grown up in teeny tiny towns, not unlike Hatton– but aloof alcohol-sharing guy didn’t want to hear that. D.C. Insider was indignant about this turn of events, where I was mostly just confused having never been called city folk before in my life.

Two weekends ago, the Historic Pawtuxet Village in Warwick/Cranston, RI celebrated Gaspee Days and the ritual burning of the HMS Gaspee. The HMS Gaspee was a British ship sent to to colonies to enforce the stamp act. It was a jerk ship, and the colonists had had enough! They burned it in the Historic Pawtuxet Village (back when it was just “Pawtuxet Village”), and this act– not the Boston tea party– started the Revolutionary War. Rhode Islanders are so proud of this feat that they re-burn a miniature Gaspee every year, which does not look as impressive as the burning in this painting.

Being a new Rhode Islander, and a lover of all things a bit ridiculous, I simply had to see this event for myself and make my Jewish Friend see it too. Admittedly, it was a bit slow, the colonial fashion show was rather lame, and Jewish Friend was much happier to ogle all of the cute dogs and try to make friends with them than she was to learn about the history of this historic day.

Finally, as we were waiting by the raffle table to see if we had one any of the 500 crappy (chemical peel), and awesome (basket of wine) prizes they were giving away, the re-enactors wheeled a cannon down to the shoreline and fired it off.

I jumped, and yelped “Jesus Christ, that’s loud!” Then they just kept firing the damn thing over, and over. After about five rounds, I just left my hands clamped on my ears, and muttered “why do they keep firing it?”

“They fire the same number of shots that they fired at the Gaspee.” a woman standing next to me said.

“So, they’re actually trying to set that” (I indicated the fake, miniature Gaspee in the water) “on fire with the cannon?”

“No, some men rowed out there earlier to light it, and they’re hiding and waiting for the appropriate number of shots to be fired before they do it.”

“Well, how many shots is that?” I asked her, thinking that this booming had been going on for quite a while already.

She looked at me a bit like my mother used to when I’d put on an outfit she deemed too ‘wacky’ or like my grandmother when I ordered mashed potatoes with a side of french fries, ” You don’t know how many shots they fire?”

Gaspee beforeGaspee after!  Viva la Revolucion!

For all of the faults and quirks that my parents have, one area I feel they really succeeded in was making sure I see AMERICA. My dad is one of those guys who I suspect is always humming Proud to be an American silently in his head (ain’t no doubt, he loves this land), and he and mom made it a point to see as much of the lower 48 states as possible (apparently, they have no interest in Alaska or Hawaii).

When I was growing up, we took a major family vacation every summer, usually in the car. We saw all of the roadside attractions: Storybook Village, Storybook Island, Olde Tyme photo places, Flintstone Village, the Wisconsin Dells, the place where Al Capone died (or maybe it was just where he hung out), we took DuckBoat and Trolley Tours, and a whole lot more. They were also willing (albeit reluctant) to occasionally fly places, which is how, at the somewhat snarky age of ten, I first found myself at DisneyWorld (which is the one in Florida).

At DisneyWorld’s sister theme park EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow– bet you didn’t know that, or its rather hilarious, and true in the early 90s acronymal nickname Every Person Comes Out Tired), they celebrate the world of the future as well as the world most people who long for a vacation at DisneyWorld are less inclined to seek out– the rest of the world. The World Showcase Pavilions. You can experience a country in 15 minutes and speak to people who are actually from there. Drink beer in Germany, buy tea in England, eat pasta in Italy, and get heckled by vendors in Mexico– it’s all there!

EPCOT’s popularity has been dwindling in recent years because the entire premise of the park (besides the World Showcase), is the marvel and wonder of the future. Unfortunately for the park, the future is now, you can’t build rides fast enough to keep up with things, and videophones stopped impressing people years ago. One of my favorite bits is The American Adventure. While the other countries are merely named as what they are, American becomes an adventure complete with a 1/2 hour movie about the history of our great nation narrated by animatronic Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain.

As awesome as that is, it really pales in comparison to the Hall of Presidents at DisneyWorld. Located in Liberty Square, which was called New Orleans square before Katrina (seriously, kick them while down), Liberty Square is where you go to buy all manner of Americana and take in the greatest animatronic spectacle ever.

I first took in the wonder and majesty of the Hall of Presidents with my dad choking back sobs next to me, and I do think that we had to re-visit before the end of that vacation. He occasionally still talks about the experience in hushed tones. I was more dumbfounded by the fact that they had created robot replicas of every single president (even the crappy ones), and all of these robot replicas moved and twitched and seemed to really resent Lincoln as he got to get up and made a speech while they were forced to just sit there and fidget. So, many years later when I visited DisneyWorld with friends, I insisted that we re-visit this hallowed space.

I was with a friend who is generally a good sport, a former history major, and a friend who can’t read. I thought the non-reading friend would be the loudest complainer since all of the rides at EPCOT had been “too talky” and “fucking boring” for her. Turns out all three were equally vocal about their displeasure, and that was even before we were told that we’d have to wait 35 more minutes until the next presentation.

I don’t regret forcing my friends to wait 35 minutes, maybe they didn’t appreciate seeing Calvin Coolidge bob his head, or Franklin Pierce stand in the back looking confused, but I think my joy was enough for everyone.

Now I’m reading Sarah Vowell’s Partly Cloudy Patriot, and she’s mentioned that at the Lyndon B. Johnson Memorial Library there’s an animatronic LBJ who tells folksy jokes. I immediately started thinking of ways to get myself to Texas, which is an urge I’ve only ever had once.

Interesting.

It’s a bizarre fixation, and a misunderstood one, but the friends I made visit the Hall of Presidents with me admitted that it wasn’t as bad as they had thought. Perhaps others will come to feel the same way.

I’m in the throes of a vacation craving more intense than I’ve felt in years. I think I’m alienating friends by being so singularly focused, but I realized a while ago that I have not left the lower 48 (except going to Canada briefly), in 7 years. This is not ok with me.

How does a girl who professes to love travel more than most things, let it slip this far? I’m not completely sure, but I intend to stop it.

In all honesty, I though that moving to the East Coast would calm things a bit– it’s not that same as traveling to a completely foreign land, but creating a new life in a completely different part of the country never previously visited, must be close. As much as I want to explore my new home, I really have to admit that driving to Cape Cod is unlikely to satisfy me.

This begs the question: why have I not chosen a career that allows me to travel, or even requires me to travel? Answer: because I do not know what career that is.

For all of my searching as an undeclared sophomore, I still have no idea what people do for a living. I grew up in a small town where things were clear-cut: doctor, policeman, teacher etc. The small-townness of it all, allowed to stereotypes of the 50s to prevail, and people had jobs that were readily understood by anyone else unlike, say, “I’m a shoozit, which means I do x, y, and sometimes z, but usually my assistant handles that.”

I spent the first two years of college reading books, taking test and surveys, all in an effort to understand what the hell I should major in because I thought that would determine what job I would do. All the tests said either lawyer, or writer. All of them. In my mind, two choices could not be further apart, though both appeal to me. Although, after I finished my first masters, when I realized that I could not be a full-time writer, I also realized that I love the idea of going to law school, but would rather never practice law– thanks meyers-briggs.

So, now I’m going to be a librarian, which is a career choice that has felt the more comfortable of any I’ve ever made, and one that I could have made even given my rather limited wordview on careers (it may be just that I overthought things)– except all I can think about now is travel and how librarianship stifles that. Even though I would be basically unemployed as a writer because I lack discipline, and the ability to write anything that doesn’t sound smartassed– I could legitimize traveling because it would lead to the next big novel, character, article, vignette, script etc.

Librarians, mostly need to be on-site to manage the goings on at the library.

This is why, as I told a friend a couple weeks ago, I plan to be a librarian turned professor turned writer turned editor turner writer/lecturer who is in high demand but can be picky. I don’t think it’s unreasonable.

So, I needed librarianship to make writing fun for me again, I need travel to make librarianship fun again, we’ll see what happens after I achieve travel because I’m seriously running out of passions– maybe thats when I discover the whole new talent that I previously never knew I had.

I’ve mentioned before my love (or rather need) for watching travel documentaries. Well, I was perusing the ol’ library stacks a while looking for something about India, when I came across a travel documentary about Rhode Island. What better way to get to know your new home, than to watch a low-budget movie about it? I thought. So I got it, and watched it, and that has already come in handy because on Sunday I went and watched the ceremonial burning of the H.M.S. Gaspee (more on that later).

The DVD (yes, it was actually a DVD), also included a glimpse of The American Diner Museum in Lincoln, RI. Diners apparently started in Rhode Island: “It is generally agreed that the first diner was a horse-drawn wagon equipped to serve hot food to employees of the Providence Journal, in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1872. Walter Scott who ran the lunch wagon had previously supplemented his income by selling sandwiches and coffee to his fellow pressmen at the Journal from baskets he prepared at home. Commercial production of lunch wagons began in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1887. The first manufactured lunch wagons with seating appeared throughout the Northeastern US in the late 19th century, serving busy downtown locations without the need to buy expensive real estate. It is generally accepted that the name “diner” as opposed to “lunch wagon” was not widely used before 1925.”– Wikipedia.

So they created a museum to honor this contribution to eating, and showcase the history of the loveable institution of “the diner.” Sounds great to me.

A while ago my Jewish Friend and I were driving home from a super-fun-adventure-Sunday hiking in Purgatory Chasm and then eating ice cream. It was early, and we still felt like more adventures could be had. So I pulled out Susan, the trusty GPS and asked her for a list of local attractions.

“Ohhhh, The American Diner Museum.” I said, “I just watched a travel documentary about that. Do you want to go there?”

“What is it?”

“It’s like a tribute to the American Diner.”

“Sounds good.”

Susan was not on her game that day and she made us drive in circles for quite a while leading Jewish Friend to yell out, “Why is she making us drive in circles? Doesn’t she know how expensive gas is?” Finally, we found the museum, and found it to be closed. There were no posted hours on the building, nor did the recording give me any when I called them. So we went home.

The following day, I found their website which promises: “Visitors to the Museum’s permanent home will be able learn the history of the diner through interactive video and exhibits commemorating the numerous diner manufacturers. The Museum’s reference library will provide access to manufacturers’ literature and records, a registry of diners and a collection of photographs and artifacts.” Except there are no posted hours on the website either. So I sent them a politely worded email. I thought maybe, it’s only open during the summer months, and we had visited too early.

The email bounced back– three times.

So I called them, and left a politely-worded voicemail explaining that I’m new to the area, saw the museum on a travel documentary, and would simply love to come visit if they would only tell me when I can actually get into the building. No response.

Now, I have to ask, what is the point of having a museum that no one can visit? Do I need to be a part of a documentary crew in order to get inside? Someone must be paying the phone bill, so why is he or she not checking messages?

I was fully prepared to visit this establishment, appreciate the contribution that my adopted home of Rhode Island made to food service, marvel at olde tymey cooking gadgets, and then leave satisfied and say nice things about it to other people– no more. I fully intend to scoff every time someone else brings it up and say something like “good luck getting in.”

An old friend who also writes a blog mentioned quite a while ago that since she has been maintaining this blog, whenever something odd, or adventurous happens– people seem to look at her, or even just say “I smell a blog entry.” In my case, it’s kind of the opposite problem, meaning that no one ever looks at me and said “I smell a blog entry,” instead, when I’m telling stories, they say, “I know, I read your blog.” This is usually followed by an awkward silence as I try to regroup and remember something that I’ve done that’s interesting that I haven’t written about.

Turns out, I’m a bit boring, but I am getting better at rebounding as it happens more and more frequently.

Of course I’ve related this story to several people already, but like I said, I’m a bit boring.

Last week, I had the privilege of going on the Fellowship of American Bibliophilic Societies(FABS) annual tour.  For anyone who doesn’t know, an American Bibliophilic Society is just what it sounds like: a society for bibliophiles.  There are many, many groups around the country, and some of them are allowed to also be a part of the Fellowship, and, if they want, go on this annual tour. 

The annual tour is in a different location every year, and it consists of about 4 days of tours of libraries, private collector’s homes, printers– everything related to books that they can cram into the allotted time.  The tour is also a rather expensive excursion even without factoring in airfare, room, and board, but we had a large group of very enthusiastic people.

Day three was the day that I got to enjoy, because it was in Providence.  Technically, my role was as “getaway driver” i.e. if someone falls down (which was a legitimate concern cause some of these people were seriously old), or simply cannot continue on with the tour that day– it is my job to transport them back to the hotel.

Thankfully, my services were not needed and I got to enjoy the whole tour plus lunch and late afternoon snack with champagne.  I was worried that lunch would be a bit awkward since I really didn’t know any of these people, and I thought they might be somewhat snobby.  On the contrary, most of them were completely fascinated with the fact that there was a “young person” on the tour and kept pelting me with questions about my hopes and dreams.

At lunch, I sat next to a rather chatty Lebanese woman who remarked “I spoke to your boss about you, she says you are very good with technology.  Is that true?”

“I suppose so.” I replied.

“Tell me what you know about technology.” she demanded, and the waited for me to tell her.

I managed to side-step actually listing off programs I’m familiar with, and opted instead to blame my facility with gadgets on “being of a certain generation.”

The following day, I had to work and it was the symposium portion of the tour that consisted of three hours of lectures, briefly interrupted by pastry and coffee.  I got to work early to find my boss in a state of panic.  Apparently, the laptop and the projector were not communicating with one another putting a serious crimp in the power-point presentations.  Never having used this projector before, I was at a bit of a loss, but I gamely pushed buttons and sighed heavily.  Nothing worked, and our tech services librarian had no clue either.

Finally, I pulled out the manual, figured out that we needed to hit fn+F5, and saved the day.  The rest of the presentations went well, and afterward, when I was sneaking my coffee and pastry another woman came up to me and said “Excellent work with fixing the computer.  You must be pretty good at stuff like that.”

And this is why I love librarianship. A while ago, I was sitting at the circ desk at job number 1. A gaggle of teenage girls came in with an older gentleman who had a very chaperonely air. Teenage girls are rare in this type of library, and they all looked very baffled, so the reference librarian asked if she could help them.

Basically, these were girls who go to some private school, and one of their treats for being honor students is that they get to come to Newport and go on some sort of scavenger hunt. They needed to acquire a book from our library, and also were looking for Mr. Potatohead.

Naturally, I found this very confusing, but it was explained to me that Hasbro is located in Pawtucket, RI, and some years ago (to increase tourism, to raise awareness, cause this seems to have been a trend in 2000?), the state decorated large Mr. Potatoheads and scattered them throughout the state. Unfortunately for these girls, no one knew where the potatoheads had been relocated, and 15 minutes of asking the internet and making phone calls only resulted telling us where the potatoheads had been, and confusing the people who were unfortunate enough to have answered the phones.

This made me curious, and I thought that it might be fun to sleuth out where the potatoheads had ended up, and make a day of finding them. So, I settled into my web-based research, only to unearth something a bit shocking: Mr. Potato Head Statue Said Rascist

By Gillian Flynn
Associated Press Writer
Friday, Sept. 29, 2000; 12:47 p.m. EDT

“WARWICK, R.I. –– A 6-foot Mr. Potato Head statue, one of dozens dotting Rhode Island as part of a tourism campaign, will be taken down because of complaints that the grinning, brown-skinned figure appeared racist.

The “Tourist Tater” was painted dark brown to appear suntanned and wore an ill-fitting Hawaiian shirt, glasses and a hat.”

And the best part:

“Kathy Szarko, the artist who designed “Tourist Tater,” said that she meant no offense and that several other spud statues are a similar color.

“He’s a potato. That’s why he’s brown,” Szarko said.”

Oh man, what a gift. Of course, you can judge for yourself.

A couple weeks ago, I managed to get the least sexy injury ever. It is the least sexy because the story doesn’t start with I was trekking through Nepal, or I was running from enemy agents who wanted to kidnap and torture me in order to learn my secrets, but with I was walking to my reading chair. And the story ends not with, look at this kick-ass scar! but rather, No, the bruise faded, nothing really to see, mostly it’s just a dull ache.

Now I am hyper-aware of my toe, and I’ve managed to stub it 3 more times (once today!), since the incident that broke it. I do not want to be hyper-aware of my toe, I preferred when I didn’t have to think about it at all, but it’s amazing how such a tiny little thing can annoy you so much.

I was talking to a co-worker who had also broken her toe recently, she actually went to the doctor cause hers was a much worse break and she had to wear the broken toe boot.

That would have made it less sexy as well, but probably would have gotten me more attention. I have been wearing the same pair of shoes for almost two weeks now because if I put on anything that covers the toe, it screams in protest. I foolishly put on my running shoes, thinking that since they are 1/2 size too big I would be fine– I was mistaken.

So not only is it an aggravating inconvenience, but it’s a lame injury. I mean, I pride myself on working through anything– I am a trooper, but when you can’t walk normally because the 4th smallest bone in your in your body is broken because you caught it on a chair leg… I mean, come on. I’m so over it.

My parents are coming to visit in July. For five days I will have three extra bodies (two of them large, male bodies) crammed into a very hot apartment, three extra people using my shower, and three air mattresses taking up all of my floor real estate. It would be an understatement to say that I’m a little apprehensive about the whole thing, though I am looking forward to free meals (not from Tim Horton’s).

What makes me most apprehensive is the miscommunications we’ve had already in planning this trip. First they were coming in May, but my brother’s work got in the way. Then they were talking about July and asked if there were any dates that didn’t work for me. All I said over and over and over was “end of June through beginning of July, I am going on vacation, I am unavailable those dates. The rest of the whole summer is up for grabs but end of June through beginning of July is off-limits.”

Then I get an email from my mother saying that they’re planning to arrive July 4.

In the subsequent phone call she inquired about the black-out dates on my calendar, and I told her, and I had told my father 1/2 dozen times “I took the time off to go to ALA conference in Anaheim, but that fell through, so now I’m going somewhere.”

“You don’t know where you’re going?”

“Well, we (my Jewish friend and I) were going to go to Montreal, but she doesn’t have a valid passport right now, so we’re re-planning things. If it doesn’t work out that she and I can coordinate schedules– then I’m going somewhere by myself. I have to go somewhere this summer.”

Of course she asked me to switch the days off to coordinate with when they are visiting, but I refused, then she asked, “really, you’d go somewhere all by yourself? Aww.”

This brings to mind another pair of incidents that came one on the heels of the other recently. I was in a class and we had to group up with different people than usual. So I got to meet a couple women from the other side of the room (the room divided itself, rather handily, into the young side and the old side). One of these women had mixed up my friends Mary and Lisa and asked Lisa why in the world she moved all the way to Rhode Island from Texas.

“Actually,” Lisa told her, “I’m from Connecticut, Mary over there is from Texas. But Andria moved here from North Dakota.”

The woman’s jaw dropped and she gaped at me in a way I’ve never experienced before.

“Why did you move here?” she demanded.

“For library school.”

“Had you ever been here before? Why did you pick Rhode Island?”

“No, and because it sounded pretty.”

“You’ve got balls of steel, girl!”

“Erm, thanks ?”

And then she followed with a question that I never thought I would ever in my life hear, “But how do you meet single girlfriends?”

This question perplexed me to no end. I wanted to indicate Lisa, sitting to my left, and say “She’s a girlfriend.” And also assert, “Single or not, I don’t have a very elaborate screening process.” But I was really wondering if she was asking me where to find girls to go clubbing and trolling for men with or something. Do people really do that? Also, she’s a rather tired-looking elementary school teacher, does she do that? What the hell is this conversation about, is she really asking me how to make friends?

“Well, what do you do on the weekends?” she asked.

“Well, I work all week, so on the weekends I do homework and…” These are questions that are very hard to answer. ‘On alternating Sundays I go to pub trivia, occasionally I see movies, or go to parties…’ I mean really.

Thankfully, the professor asked us all to regroup, so I got to shrug off the rest of the grilling, but I was given her phone number along with the offer “I’d love to show you around Providence.”

So that was weird.

Then the following day at work I was having a nice conversation with someone who I genuinely like when she said, “I hope you’ve managed to make at least one friend since you’ve been out here.”

By this point, I’d been in Rhode Island for 7 months– is she kidding?

But I don’t really think that people want to hear that you have a full social calendar and are, in fact, beloved by many. This seems to be a product of never having left a place, and never having had to make friends, although I’m still baffled. Does the woman who asked me where I find single girlfriends actually not have any, or did she just want a new technique? I’m a bit disturbed by the fact that these people seem to picture me sitting home alone, longing for the prairie and the friends I left behind– but that’s their shit.

I am a scandalous woman.